Swimming Pool Historian Responds to Philadelphia Incident

In the past month, an occurrence in the suburbs of Philadelphia has turned into a national story. After a group of minority children were disinvited by a private swimming pool’s administration, community members were outraged. Senator Arlen Spector said that if allegations were true, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was likely violated. Now, the United States Justice Department plans to review the incident.

All this has led UNC Press author Jeff Wiltse, who wrote of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, to respond to the recent northeast Philly swim club story in an op-ed at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

But the real lesson of the Valley Club incident is not that racial prejudice persists among well-to-do, white Northerners, or that swimming pools are still contested spaces. It’s that our nation’s history of racial discrimination is difficult to overcome because many Americans continue to live and recreate in social environments that are the product of past prejudices.

Read the full article: Built on a foundation of outdated prejudices | Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/16/2009.